The Texas House of Representatives has become the scene of clashes between lawmakers and a group of protesters who objected to the state’s adoption of US President Donald Trump’s so-called “sanctuary cities” anti-immigration directive.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on the House floor on Monday, calling on the state representatives to drop support for Senate Bill 4, an executive order by Trump that warns “sanctuary cities” against sheltering immigrants.
The Republican measure was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott earlier this month and would become effective from September.
The passing of SB4 amounted to a big victory for state Republicans, who had been trying unsuccessfully to crack down on sanctuary cities in each legislative session since 2011.
Activists wearing red T-shirts with “Lucha,” or “Fight” written on them entered the Texas capitol building in Austin and then filled the gallery seats at the chamber as lawmakers started the final day in this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature.
The protesters (seen below) soon broke their silence and started chanting against supporters of the law, shouting, “See you in court” and “See you at the polls.”
The situation escalated when Republican Representative Matt Rinaldi reportedly told his Democratic colleagues that he had called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on the protesters.
“We were just on the floor talking about the SB4 protests, and Matt Rinaldi came up to us and made it a point to say, ‘I called (ICE) on all of them,’ ” said Democratic state Representative Philip Cortez. “And this is completely unacceptable. We will not be intimidated. We will not be disrespected.”
Footage of the scuffle shows lawmakers pushing one another, yelling and making gestures. Democrats also accused Rinaldi of repeatedly getting in their faces and cursing at them.
The law puts a ban on sanctuary policies and allows police officers to question the immigration status of anybody they want. The law also threatens jail time and heavy fines of up to $25,000 per day for officials who fail to comply with federal immigration agents.
Trump issued the executive order on January 25, seeking to deny billions of dollars to cities that harbor undocumented immigrants.
In April, a federal judge ruled to block part of the measure that concerns funding. Trump has promised to take the case to the Supreme Court.